Invasion of the Giant Hogweed (not Cow Parsnip)

Yesterday I came across a news story about an invasive plant called the Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum).  Then this evening CTV News had a story about the Giant Hogweed.  It sounds like a nasty weed, partly because of its effect on the native ecosystems but also for health reasons, and it is spreading across Canada.

This species has been beneath my radar all these years, but I thought the pictures looked familiar.

Sure enough, it’s in the same genus as Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum).  That’s the species that grew in the bush down the hill from our house near Shell Lake when I was a kid.  Having a hollow stem, it made great pea-shooters.  Or chokecherry shooters.  I remember some chokecherry wars involving my brothers Marv and Dan together with our cousins Dennis, Dave and Ken.  They were brutal, but fun.  I also remember how angry Mom was the day I filled the pocket of my good shirt full of ripe chokecherries and stained it beyond the power of any detergent.

But getting back to the Giant Hogweed … it too has a hollow stem, but the sap is toxic.  I don’t know if its range has expanded to Shell Lake, but obviously using it for chokecherry wars would not be a good idea.

Another thing I discovered in the news article linked above is that the band Genesis had a 1971 song about the Giant Hogweed.

These have been a couple of days of botanical discoveries.

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